Sports

Fastpitch: Wolves earn first league title since 2005

South Kitsap’s Molly Lider slides home ahead of the throw in the fifth inning of the Wolves’ win over Stadium. - Jeff Rhodes/Staff Photo
South Kitsap’s Molly Lider slides home ahead of the throw in the fifth inning of the Wolves’ win over Stadium.
— image credit: Jeff Rhodes/Staff Photo

A confident proclamation preceded the game.

South Kitsap senior catcher Bridjet Box declared that her team would defeat Stadium for the Narrows League fastpitch championship.

And with junior Emilly Cunningham on the mound, it certainly was not false bravado. Cunningham struck out six batters en route to a complete game 3-2 win Friday at Tacoma’s South End Recreation Area.

The victory clinches the Wolves’ first league championship since 2005. They play at 10 a.m. Friday against the South Puget Sound League’s No. 9 seed.

“We’ve got to go in there with the same positive attitude and we’ll come out on top,” Box said. “We’re going to state.”

South (15-3) has not advanced to state since 2003, and needs two wins at districts to qualify. That has been coach Kathy Ballew’s stated goal throughout the year.

But the Wolves first had to defeat the Tigers (17-2), who won the previous game between the team’s 7-6 on April 12. Cunningham said the team converged on the bus ride and communication on the field was a significant theme. The plan on how to approach hitters, she said, already had been developed between her and Box after analyzing the previous game and talking with some of the Tigers’ other opponents.

“Bridjet and I just kept telling each other to keep it outside or keep it on the line on the inside,” Cunningham said. “Work the corners. Don’t go down the middle.”

While she worked on stifling Stadium’s hitters, South’s own offense gave Cunningham an early lead. With one out in the second inning, Ericka Hobson singled and Erika Henderson and Tonya Forster reached on errors after attempting sacrifice bunts to load the bases. Hobson scored on a wild pitch by Heidy Wells during the ensuing at-bat. One pitch later, Holly Lider hit a sacrifice fly to center field that scored Henderson to give South a 2-0 lead.

“Early on, we played that short game and caught them off guard a few times,” Ballew said. “The small game is gonna be important in close games.”

The Wolves extended their advantage to 3-0 in the fifth inning on a sacrifice fly by Cunningham that scored Lider.

That was more than enough support for Cunningham, who twice pitched out of difficult situations. In the fifth, Brittney Lott hit a one-out double that scored Chelsae Titus. But Cunningham stuck out Devynne Nelons and induced Wells into a ground out to end the inning.

“She really hit her spots,” said Ballew, who credited Box and Cunningham for their game plan. “Mentally, it was a good game for her.”

Cunningham faced another challenge in the seventh inning. Mackenzie Bourbanis doubled to start the inning and later scored with one out when Lott’s grounder was bobbled by the shortstop. But she struck out Nelons and Wells to end the game.

“I wasn’t really nervous or scared,” Cunningham said. “I knew our defense would come through if I needed it.”

She did not as she struck out Nelons and Wells to end the game.

“Exciting,” Box said. “There’s no other word to describe it.”

Narrows League Championship

Friday at South End Recreation Area

South Kitsap 3, Stadium 2

South Kitsap 020 010 0 — 3 4 3

Stadium 000 010 1 — 2 3 5

Emilly Cunningham and Bridjet Box. Heidy Wells and Marissa Townsend.

W: Cunningham. L: Wells.

Leading hitters: Holly Lider (SK) 1-1 RBI; Cunningham (SK) 1-1 BB 2B RBI; Brittney Lott (S) 2-4 2B.

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